‘Rattle Hall’ music centre plans abandoned

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The City of London has today pulled the plug on ambitious plans for a £300m pound centre for music, inspired by Sir Simon Rattle’s demand for an international-standard concert hall for London.

Rattle made the appeal shortly before joining the London Symphony Orchestra as music director in 2017. Since 1982 the LSO has been resident at the Barbican Centre which would have administered the new concert complex. Last month Rattle announced that he was leaving the orchestra to work in Germany, leading to speculation that new hall would not go ahead.

A statement from the Corporation of London, the freeholder for the site on which the hall would have been built and chief funder, came in an announcement of new plans for developing the Barbican Centre and a renewal of the funding commitment to the LSO.

“The City Corporation has also confirmed that, given the current unprecedented circumstances, its ambitious plans for a centre for music will not be progressed” the statement said. “Alternative proposals for the site – currently occupied by the Museum of London - will be brought forward over the coming months. Investment in the City Corporation’s existing assets will maintain and enhance its commitment to creativity and culture.”

The centre for music project had been close to the heart of the Barbican’s managing director, Sir Nicholas Kenyon. “New times need new solutions” he said today. “As we reimagine the City in a time of recovery we are delighted that a major project to renew the Barbican will be launched in 2022, its 40th anniversary, updating our iconic venue in line with sustainability, climate action, and the ever-changing needs of audiences, communities, and our many performers, including our superb resident orchestra, the LSO. This will make the Barbican the creative home for the next generation.”

Projected costs for the ambitious music centre had been soaring with planning issues also besetting it. It was to have been built on the site of the Museum of London which is moving to West Smithfield.

Instead, the corporation’s policy and resources committee backed plans to reimagine and upgrade the 40-year-old Barbican “to serve the changing needs of modern audiences, visitors, performers, and artists”. Plans for the Grade II listed centre will respond to the climate change agenda with increased sustainability, while audiences and visitors will benefit from upgraded facilities, including enhanced spaces for community and creative learning programmes, and events across the art-forms.

A competitive selection process to find an architect-led team to take the project forward will be launched later this year.

There was also a commitment to further funding for two years for Culture Mile, the City Corporation’s initiative to create a new destination for creativity, innovation, and learning in the north-west corner of the Square Mile, in partnership with the Barbican, Guildhall School of Music & Drama, LSO and Museum of London. The funding will enable Culture Mile to continue its transition to a sustainable business model. These commitments, alongside the new Museum of London in West Smithfield, will form a central part of the City’s wider cultural regeneration plans and play an important role in London’s/the City’s post-Covid recovery.

“Support for culture and the arts has never been more important, and we recognise that this sector will play a vital role in the post-Covid recovery of the City, the capital, and the UK” said the corporation’s policy chair Catherine McGuinness. The Barbican is the jewel in the City’s cultural crown and as it looks to celebrate its 40th birthday next year, it is the right time to explore how best to safeguard its heritage and its unrivalled position on the international arts and culture scene.”

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